Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

White House tries to soothe concerns on foreign policy amid criticism

WASHINGTON - White House officials have been holding private meetings this week aimed at soothing lawmakers' concerns over the U.S. posture in Syria, the future of the American military presence in Afghanistan and defence spending. The meetings come as a frustrated White House seeks to push back at criticism of President Barack Obama's foreign policy.

But the White House outreach appeared to be having little effect on some lawmakers' concerns.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described Tuesday night's White House meeting with chief of staff Denis McDonough and national security adviser Susan Rice as "one of the most bizarre I've attended."

Another senator who attended the meeting said Obama's advisers refused to provide lawmakers with answers about whether the president plans to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war formally concludes later this year or about the Pentagon's efforts to find nearly 300 kidnapped Nigerian school girls.

Unsatisfied, some of the lawmakers started to leave one by one before the meeting had finished. The senator and three congressional aides briefed on the meeting insisted on anonymity to discuss the private talks.

The meetings, which have been taking place both at the White House and on Capitol Hill, come as Obama prepares for a speech Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he is expected to try to answer critics who say he has surrendered America's global leadership and faltered on problems in the Middle East, Russia, China and beyond.

McDonough and Rice met at the White House on Monday night with about a dozen House Democrats. On Tuesday, officials invited 14 senators — three of them were Republicans — to the White House for a discussion on foreign policy over wine, beer, and a cheese and cracker platter on the patio outside of McDonough's office.

The chief of staff was also on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a foreign policy-focused meeting with the full House. He met with the full Senate on Thursday, though national security took a backseat in that discussion to economic issues.

Among the Democrats who attended the Tuesday meeting were New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Michigan Sen. Carl Levin; and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed. The three Republicans who attended were Corker, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

A White House official said six Republicans were invited to the meeting, but half did not attend.

The president did not drop by the White House meeting, surprising the senators. White House officials cast the meetings as part of their effort to step up engagement with lawmakers who long have complained about feeling out of the loop regarding the president's decision-making.

In another sign of the White House's uphill climb to sway lawmakers, the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favour of a $601 billion defence authorization bill that Obama has threatened to veto. McDonough had used his discussions with Democrats to try to persuade them to reject the measure, which authorizes spending on weapons and personnel for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It also limits Obama's handling of terror suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, barring him from transferring detainees to maximum-security prisons in the United States.

Midway through his sixth year in office, Obama has been showing signs of frustration with the way his foreign policy has been viewed by critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. During a news conference in the Philippines last month, he pushed back at those who said his cautious response to the Syrian civil war and Russia's threatening moves in Ukraine has weakened the U.S.

"You hit singles, you hit doubles. Every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run," Obama said. "But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world."

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media